Some 300 researchers have studied more than 100,000 people from several continents and discovered the genetic changes that predict adult-onset diabetes, which is usually linked with obesity, poor diet and lack of physical activity.
Professor Gil Atzmon of the University of Haifa and the Einstein Institute in New York participated in the research that found a candidate gene: PAX-4.
“If we manage to develop a drug that imitates proper functioning of the gene, we will be able to dramatically change the process of treating type 2 diabetes patients,” Professor Atzmon said, “and in the future maybe even be able to cope with it even before it breaks out.”
The study, recently published in the prestigious journal Nature, found – among the hundreds of genes that might predict the outbreak of the metabolic disease – a gene whose changes significantly raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is considered to be an “epidemic” in the overweight Western world. PAX-4 was found to raise the risk of the disease by an astounding 80 percent.
People who carry the gene could undergo preventive counseling to adopt a healthful lifestyle and avoid getting ill, said Atzmon, who added that the researchers did not prove that carrying the gene actually causes diabetes to occur, but that it occurs in people who are at high risk.
“Today, it is not accepted that genetic tests are conducted on specific age groups to identify the risk for diabetes, but the new discovery could lead to such screening,” he concluded.